Mums Lisa Kenevan and Hollie Dance share tips to protect children from harmful online challenges

Mums Lisa Kenevan and Hollie Dance sit together at a table.

Mums Lisa Kenevan and Hollie Dance lost their sons to dangerous online challenges. Now, they’re helping parents to recognise the risk and keep other children safe.

See their tips below.

How children learn about online challenges

“Children are naturally inquisitive and will explore,” says Lisa. “Unfortunately, they can easily fall down a ‘rabbit hole’ of continuous negativity and harmful algorithms.” Algorithms are a key part of social media platforms. They work by learning from user behaviour to suggest similar content. If your child ‘likes’, comments on, shares or even views certain content, the algorithm ‘learns’ what they enjoy. The problem is, algorithms do not currently determine what could potentially cause harm.

Hollie adds that the whole concept of suggested content is “quite creepy.” While the algorithm can help users explore content they enjoy, it does so by tracking what they do.

If your child fully watches a video that features a dangerous challenge, even by accident, they are likely to see similar content. The same is true if other users who have similar interests watch the content. Algorithms will suggest content based on other users’ behaviour as well.

What are the signs to look out for?

Hollie highlights the importance of investigating what your child says, especially if it relates to something that could lead to harm.

If your child is taking part in dangerous challenges, or if they’re seeing content that could influence them to do so, you might also notice other changes. It’s important to pay close attention to any behavioural changes or new interests. If they become more insular, says Hollie, and spend a lot more time in their room, you need to stay on top of what they’re doing.

“Check in on them,” says Hollie, “Talk to them.” Listen to what’s going on in their headset and ask them to show you what they’re watching. Talk about risky behaviours such as clicking on pop-up ads in the games they play or watching videos that promote harmful content.

If you do find signs that they’re watching or participating in these challenges, it’s also important to remain calm and avoid accusations. “In no way should we make them feel they have done something wrong,” says Lisa.

4 tips to prevent harm from online challenges

Have conversations early on

Lisa highlights the importance of keeping children safe while respecting their privacy. 'As parents we naturally want to protect our children . . . but the reality is we cannot police our children 24/7. We have to respect their privacy.' Talking about online safety early is important to helping them keep themselves safe. Talk to them about risky behaviours, what to avoid and how to get support if something goes wrong.


Encourage them to be mindful of uncomfortable content

'It's so important to ensure your child can talk to a parent or a responsible adult if they see something on social media that makes them feel uncomfortable,' advises Lisa. So, encourage your child to think about how content makes them feel, and explain what they can do (i.e., coming to you) if it makes them uneasy.

Understand the power of the internet

'The internet is a fantastic tool,' says Lisa, 'and yet extremely dangerous if its power is used to manipulate our young generation.' Hollie adds, 'Just because your home is your safe place for your children, don't assume they are safe online.' As parents, it's important to recognise that there are both benefits and risks so you can take action to help children experience more benefits.

Review their privacy and security

'Internet access is like inviting a billion strangers into your home,' says Hollie. She explains that it's unlikely you'd want your child interacting offline with everyone they might come across on social media. So, review the controls you have on their devices, apps and mobile or broadband networks to limit unwanted contact or content.

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